In an exclusive interview with Autosport, Verstappen opened up about his rivalry with the seven-time world champion, which took on a new dimension at the start of the 2021 season as Dutch team Red Bull began a campaign with the fastest car for the first time in the era of the turbo hybrid.
This led to an exciting start to the season in Bahrain last month, where Hamilton beat Verstappen after the Red Bull driver’s late attempt to regain the lead went badly.
When asked who he thinks is the best current driver in F1 – especially besides himself – Verstappen replied, “Dude, you know it’s super tough, but of course you have to give credit to Lewis.
“[For] the way he’s handled all the years, always coming back and being honored and winning so many races and championships. You certainly can’t get around Lewis.
“But of course there are still a lot of other people in Formula 1, I think who are very good, very strong, and who would have been very good in this car as well.
“But still, of course, the way Lewis won and also sometimes in tough races – like last year in Turkey, to win this race, I think he did really well.
“Yeah, he’s definitely one of the best ever in Formula 1.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
Verstappen has held an almost unique position in F1 since early 2020, as the only driver to date with the combination of speed and car capable of challenging Mercedes drivers to race victories.
He finished nine times behind Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas last season, six as a runner-up, and beat the Black Arrows twice – his victory over the formbook in the 70th Anniversary GP and after Red Bull developed his RB16 to ‘at the performance level of the Mercedes W11. (Mercedes chose to stop developing its 2020 car in August, after seven rounds) by the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
But despite being so close to Hamilton on a regular basis – and ahead of the opening leg of the 2021 season opener after starting from pole – Verstappen explained that he did not choose to emulate his rival. when he considered where he could even better drive.
“I don’t look at it like that,” he said.
“I first look at what I could have done better or different – [after] every race.
“And then … I watch other people and edit stuff, but I’m not someone who copies.” I am myself.
“Because if you copy other people’s stuff, you’ll always be late first – because you don’t innovate and get better than them.
“Of course you can just watch it, you can watch it. But at the end of the day, I am myself and I think it works best for me – being myself.
The full interview with Max Verstappen is included in this week’s issue of Autosport magazine, available in store and online here: https://www.autosportmedia.com.